Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ah, the American breakfast.

I never looked at the American breakfast as a tradition, just a morning meal. But, in the U.S., unlike Asia and Southeast Asia, the Western breakfast is not so much a tradition as it is a ritual.

Get out of bed in the morning, anywhere in the western world, shower, get dressed and take a walk down the sidewalk past your neighbors houses…as you laugh at the morning newspapers lying in a puddle next to flower beds, and porch roofs, you’ll catch that familiar aroma tickling your nostrils…fresh cooked bacon, sausage and hash browns.

Intoxicating aromas.

Try doing the same thing in Asia, and you won’t see or smell anything different than if you were to walk by at noontime or late afternoon. Fried fish, rice, stir-fried vegetables, and some concoctions you don’t want to know about…or smell.

So, I thought write today about the American Breakfast, or as they say in England, “The Full Monty.”

Let’s start with your basic egg.

Eggs are a big part of a traditional American breakfast, but they often get a bum rap from health nuts. However, I’m not going there today. We all know both the American breakfast and the English Full Monty are cholesterol nightmares. But then, what comfort food isn’t?

Ever try and break open an egg? Remember the first time? The yolk went everywhere. People’s tastes are different, so let’s look at how they like their eggs.

Sunny side up – The yolk is pristine, cooked through just long enough where it’s not too runny.

Sunny side down – You flip the pristine egg over momentarily, cooking the top of the yolk just barely.

Over easy – Flip the pristine egg over for a short time, just so the membrane covering the yolk is lightly cooked.

Over medium - Over medium hardens that yolk just a bit, so it’s thicker than sunny side up. Let’s face it, some breakfast eaters in the west have pretty light stomachs in the morning, so a runny egg is liable to cause everything to come right back up, and out their nose. Over medium is the remedy for those types of people.

Over hard – An egg, yolk intact, cooked well on both sides, leaves the yolk a bit chewy and hard.

Some of these methods are cooked on a hard, greased grill, typically in a restaurant, while others are cooked at home in a frying pan with a shot of vegetable oil, bacon fat, butter or lard.

Scrambled – Crack the egg or eggs into a bowl, and fluff em’ up with a fork. Some people add milk, some add cream. Heat your griddle or pan, add a little grease, oil, bacon fat, butter or lard, and fry em’ up.

Scrambled hard – Rarely heard of, but some people like them this way. The cook throws the scrambled eggs into the pan, and as soon as they begin to congeal, he or she, continues to scramble them in the pan. These eggs resemble popcorn when they are finished and depending on the amount of oil, grease, bacon fat, butter or lard, are usually relatively dry.

Scrambled medium – Again, another type of scrambled eggs that are not commonly heard of, but are scrambled in the pan, but not to the point of popcorn eggs, and still relatively moist.

Omelet – The scrambled eggs are allowed to congeal in the pan and are then carefully folded over into a nice little packet. The omelet can be filled with many different types of ingredients. There is no limit to the imagination, but common fillers are mushrooms, cheese, hot peppers, onions,

Regarding eggs I’d be terribly remiss if I didn’t include the poached egg.

Poached – The poached egg is most likely not going to be found on a Hungry Man’s breakfast menu. Most people who liked poached eggs are either on a diet, or they get grossed out by the other methods of cooking eggs. A poached egg is simply an egg, which is steamed until cooked. The yolk can end up runny or hard, depending on the time it is cooked. For years, my mother who was diabetic, would cook up a poached egg and plop it down on toast, adding a bit of salt and pepper to it. Not bad actually.

Next on the agenda are breakfast meats. From steak to sausage, and everything in-between…let’s discuss these cholesterol bombers!

Steak – A Hungry Man’s breakfast wouldn’t be right unless Steak was included on the menu. From London broil, to filet Mignon, the hearty breakfast typically includes a big slab of beef. London broil or flank steak would be the cheapest cuts and would progress from there. Sirloin, sirloin tips, T-bone, tenderloin, filet Mignon. You just specify the degree of doneness…which would be medium rare of course!

Ham – For the sake of length, I’m going to lump together ham luncheon meat, Canadian bacon, Back bacon, and your regular bacon strips, which are either maple syrup flavored, plain or hickory smoked. Yum, yum. I’m getting hungry just thinking of all this! Bacon lovers range from the kind who likes their bacon still squealing, to cooked crisp. I’m an in-between sort of bacon lover. Canadian bacon and back bacon are just different cuts is all, typically thicker and fattier.

Sausage – Oh boy. Sausage. Hickory smoked, highly seasoned, patties, stuffed into casings, spicy hot, maple syrup flavored. You name it. They are all delicious. As far back as anybody can remember sausage has been experimented with, using different ingredients thrown into ground up pork. Sage is the main ingredient in most cases, but you’ll find rosemary, thyme, marjoram, pepper, red pepper, coriander, fennel, and other highly aromatic spices added to sausage. Jimmy Dean used to be my favorite, and it came in regular, maple syrup flavor and spicy. Spicy was my favorite. There are other sausages, but I’m not going to get into Chorizo or Mexican sausage which is often mixed in scrambled eggs, or longanisa sausage used in the Philippines, which is also delicious.

Right about now we’re building up to one big coronary occlusion. So get out the defibrillator paddles and rack up the joules.

Potatoes – You knew there had to be a vegetable here somewhere, no? Well, potatoes level your Hungry Man breakfast out a bit, but they don’t reduce the chance for that whopping myocardial infarction. The reason why is they are not typically presented baked or boiled. No, potatoes are fried up in a skillet with other goodies….vegetables like green peppers and onions! Delish!

Home Fries – For the sake of argument, I’m going to say it all depends on the cook, as to how home fries are prepared and presented on your plate. Typically the potato is first boiled or baked and left to cool in the fridge. Then, once cold, they are sliced up into mouth sized chunks, seasoned with pepper, salt, and maybe a splash of paprika or oregano, and stir fried with onion and green peppers in oil.

Hash Browns – Using a shredder or a well placed meat cleaver, the cook shreds up a raw potato into thin little strips. Then, he adds some minced onion and possibly some chopped green peppers. Then they are formed into a patty of sorts, flattened with a spatula, and fried in oil until done and crispy. Not much different than home fries, but possibly a bit neater.

Now, there you have it!

Oops! Almost forgot the bread! Darn!

Toast – Likely on a Hungry Man’s menu you’re going to find TEXAS TOAST, cause well…everything’s big in Texas, right? Ha! All Texas toast is is a thicker slice of bread, usually about an inch or inch and a half in diameter, toasted soft, and slathered in butter. Defibrillator please!

Then, toast isn’t toast for breakfast without jam or jelly. Preserves, they call them and they come in a variety of flavors like Strawberry, Cherry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Orange marmalade, Grape, and any other fruit you can think of. Usually the waitress will plop down some condiment tray with extra butter and a large selection of jams and jellies to choose from.

I’m not going to get into bagels since real men don’t eat bagels. And even English muffins are not often seen on a traditional American breakfast menu. But, I’d be hard pressed to turn down a Thomas’s English muffin with all those nooks and crannies to hold all that melted butter and jam or jelly! Ha!

There you have it. Yes, I’ve left out pancakes, Eggs Benedict, Blood pudding, bagels with cream cheese and lox, and waffles….because they just aren’t your common part of a Hungry Man’s breakfast.

I welcome any comments from readers, and would love to hear about other ethnic breakfast items. The Full Monty in England isn’t too far off the mark of the American Breakfast and is well known as a cholesterol nightmare.

So stick that drooling tongue back in your mouth and go get some breakfast! You deserve it!



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